Cowboys Magazine: Passing Game Accuracy And Drive Killers

[Ed Note]: BTB will be running a series of posts over the next few weeks highlighting some of the articles in the new  Maple Street Press Cowboys Annual that is on sale now. 112 pages, full-color photos and tons of articles about the Dallas Cowboys and the upcoming season at only $9.99. I encourage everybody to purchase one, we get a little extra when they are bought online

Today's feature article is by our own OCC, entitled: Inside the numbers: The 2010 Dallas Cowboys Offense. Here's OCC with the set-up for the article.

[OCC] A healthy Tony Romo will be a key building block for the 2011 season. The Cowboys offense, while continuing to score at about the same level with Jon Kitna under center, changed in two significant ways once Romo got injured: the passing game accuracy dropped and the distribution of balls to the receivers changed.

In the excerpt below I looked at the passing game accuracy and drive killers as part of a bigger chapter in the magazine that looks at the overall offensive team efficiency, broken down for the passing- and running game.

"Passing Game Accuracy

In his truncated season, Tony Romo led the league in completion percentage with an incredibly high 69.5% completion rate, ahead of Drew Brees (68.1%), Peyton Manning (66.3%) and Philip Rivers (66.0%). Some unlucky bounces contributed to a fairly high seven interceptions for Romo, which is why Romo’s passer rating and adjusted passing yards, which both include interceptions in the formula, are not quite as high as one would expect based on this completion rate.

More importantly though, Romo was highly consistent in his completion rate. Romo completed 70.7% of his throws on first down, the third best value in the league after Eli Manning (71.4%) and Tom Brady (71.3%). On second down, Romo had a completion rate of 69.7%, second only to Drew Brees (73.9%). On third down, Romo again had the second highest completion rate at 68.0%. Much more surprising though is which QB had the highest completion rate on third downs in 2010: Jon Kitna, with 70.4%. Here’s on overview of how the Cowboys QBs compare on completion percentage:

Romo Kitna McGee
  Attempts Compl. Comp % Attempts Compl. Comp % Attempts Compl. Comp %
1st down 92 65 70.7% 131 81 61.8% 11 6 54.5%
2nd down 66 46 69.7% 101 67 66.3% 16 10 62.5%
3rd down 50 34 68.0% 81 57 70.4% 16 6 37.5%

Kitna was less accurate than Romo on first downs, but both had outstanding numbers on third downs. While the Cowboys’ 40.8% overall third down conversion rate in 2010 is only marginally better than the 40.6% from 2009, there is significant difference in third down conversion rate where it counts the most, on touchdown drives.

Drive Killers

One of the key issues the Cowboys faced in 2009 was their seeming inability to sustain long drives, as third downs, penalties and sacks killed drive after drive. As a result, the Cowboys attacked downfield early and often, and despite being ranked only 14th in third down conversions, the Cowboys were ranked 6th in total first downs - an indication that second down conversions played a big role in Garrett's 2009 offense.

The 2009 Cowboys had 40 successful TD drives. On those drives, they converted a total of 34 third downs. On 15 TD drives the Cowboys did not face a single third down. On 16 TD drives the Cowboys had to convert only a single third down. Nine TD drives featured two successful third down conversions. But every single time the 2009 Cowboys faced more than two third downs, the drive ended without a TD.

In 2010, those numbers changed significantly. The Cowboys converted 50 third downs on 39 TD drives. The number of TD drives without a third down dropped to nine, the number of TD drives with a single third down conversion increased slightly to 18, while the TD drives with multiple third down conversions stayed relatively stable at 12. The difference however was that the Cowboys successfully managed four TD drives with three third down situations, and twice converted four third downs in a drive en route to a touchdown (vs. Lions and Colts).

Cowboys third down conversions on TD drives
  0 third downs 1 third down 2 third downs 3 third downs 4 third downs
2009 (40 TDs) 15 16 9 - - - -
2010 (39 TDs) 9 18 6 4 2

With the return of a healthy Romo and Dez Bryant, as well as the addition of DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys will remain a fast break offense. But now it appears they can also sustain multiple, long TD drives when necessary. This bodes well for 2011."

***

This is just a 600-word excerpt from a much more comprehensive 3,600 word article that you will find in the 2011 Cowboys Annual. Hope you enjoyed it, I enjoyed writing it . -  OCC

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